Appealing or Confirming an Arbitration Award
Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Arbitration Attorney
Well, the arbitrator(s) has made his or her decision. You’re now either “very happy”, “confused by the result” (yes, confused), “disappointed” or “outraged” by the result. So is that the end of it? The short answer is “no”(!) You have to confirm the arbitrator’s award or decide if you can successfully appeal the arbitrator’s decision. New Jersey law has a statutory arbitration appeal process.
APPEALING OR CONFIRMING AN ARBITRATOR’S DECISION IN NEW JERSEY
Confirmation of NJ Arbitration Awards by Filing a Binding Arbitration Appeal
To collect on your victory and/or enforce the arbitrator’s award, you need to “confirm it”. New Jersey has specific statutes that provide for the enforcement of arbitration awards against parties unwilling to comply with the arbitrator’s decision. The winning party can petition the Superior Court of New Jersey to confirm the arbitration award. Confirming the arbitration award is the substantial equivalent of filing a civil judgment against a losing party.
New Jersey law at N.J.S.A. 2A:23B-22 provides, in part:
A party to an arbitration may, within 3 months after the award, commence an action for the confirmation of an award or for its modification, correction or avoidance.
The courts in NJ are required to confirm an arbitration award unless there are legal reasons not to. Once a court confirms the arbitration award, the award becomes an enforceable judgment, subject to enforcement and execution against the losing side.
If the other side refuses to pay or follow the arbitrator’s decision, you should speak to an experienced arbitration attorney before spending significant additional money. Contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., an experienced NJ arbitration law attorney, toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at email@example.com to discuss the enforcement of a NJ arbitration award. You will find Mr. Niemann easy to talk to and objective in offering his professional opinion.
What are the grounds to seek a Modification of an Arbitration Award in NJ?
Say you lost the hearing or won or lost only portions of your claim(s) or defenses. Can you still appeal and if so, how? The New Jersey Arbitration Act offers three grounds to modify or correct an arbitration award. They are:
a. A miscalculation of figures;
b. When the arbitrator makes an award on an issue not before him/her and outside the scope of the arbitration; and
c. Where the award is so poorly written and unclear as to its terms that further clarification is necessary to enforce its provisions.
Only in those limited instances will a court in NJ modify or correct an arbitration award, and then only to effectuate the substance of the arbitrator’s decision.
Can You Appeal and Vacate an Arbitration Award? The Answer is Yes, but the Grounds for Appeal Are More Limited
The grounds for vacating an arbitration award are generally more limited. A court can vacate an award when there is:
a. Fraud or undue means by either party to the arbitration;
b. Bias and partiality by the arbitrator;
c. Where the arbitrator refuses to postpone a hearing, upon good cause shown or refuses to hear material and relevant evidence to the controversy, or of any other behavior prejudicial to the rights of any party;
d. Where the arbitrator(s) exceeded his/her powers.
The Supreme Court of NJ has offered some guidance on the appealability of a NJ Arbitration Award when in a published legal decision it stated the following:
“Judicial review of an arbitrator’s decision is extremely limited under the New Jersey Arbitration Act. A court will not overturn an arbitrator’s decision for mistakes of law or fact, as long as the arbitrator and his or her decision were not corrupt in any way and the arbitrator did not exceed his or her powers. The parties are free to expand the scope of judicial review by including in their contract that an arbitrator must make their decision in conformance with New Jersey law, and that such awards may be reversed for mistakes of New Jersey law or for gross mistakes of fact finding or procedure but they must define those criteria in their agreement. Here again is the key language. Including safeguards and mechanisms for appealing unjust or outright poor arbitrator awards in mandatory arbitration clauses or arbitration agreements.